It’s a bit of a shame that NPR often doesn’t air some media commentary by its gifted media correspondent, David Folkenflik, because his takedown of Katie Couric for her documentary on guns today deserves a wider audience.
In his post on npr.org, Folkenflik calls out Couric for improper editing of the documentary, Under the Gun, specifically, an April 2015 interview with members of the Virginia Citizens Defense League.
Couric asked, “If there are no background checks for gun purchasers, how do you prevent felons or terrorists from purchasing a gun?”
It was faked.
There was no silence. The people being interviewed had immediate answers, Folkenflik discovered.
This manipulation — and that’s what it was — would not pass muster at NPR under its principles for fairness in handling interviews.
It should be noted that documentaries operate with a different ethos than straight news. Under the Gun has a take, strongly suggesting there is a quiet consensus in favor of background checks among gun owners, aside from gun rights advocacy groups. This is not deception on a grand scale, but this handling of the interviews with the Virginia gun owners group is clearly unfair and unwarranted. People deserve to recognize themselves in how they appear in interviews.
This wound was both self-inflicted and rhetorically unnecessary — the director simply could have cut away after Couric asked the question and returned to it later. (Which the movie does in fact do, posing much the same question to Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican who supports gun ownership rights.)
To show the gun owners blank-faced for an extended time didn’t provide a pause for the viewer — it wiped away the notion these people had an answer to hear.
Of course, the proof of the faked silence throws everything else in the film into doubt as well.
The film’s director says she inserted the silence to give the audience a chance to think.